Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off with Opulent Oscar Maltby, as he takes a look at Marvel's first issue of Chewbacca...
Chewbacca #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): With the Empire's fragile economy in pieces after the Battle of Yavin, everyone's feeling the strain. Enslaved by a mob boss and subsequently sent out to freedom by her father, Zarro has no home and no plan. That is, until she stumbles into one heroic wookie! Artist Phil Noto confidently transfers Chewbacca's Muppet-like appearance on to the page, while writer Gerry Duggan tries to flesh out the dopey behemoth's interests (gambling, for one) with a light script that paddles in the shallow end of Star Wars' criminal underworld. Phil Noto colors his own work with a pleasing palette of pink and baby blue, giving the entire issue the same friendly tone as Chewbacca himself. True to the source material, there's no inner monologue for the eponymous Wookie, who relies on contextual roars to communicate. Although Chewie's name is on the cover, Zarro's the real protagonist here. With a breezy script and warm artwork, Chewbacca #1 achieves exactly what it sets out to do: Another stellar Star Wars book from Marvel.
Superman: Lois and Clark #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It begins as a beautiful epilogue, not just to the Convergence event that this version of Lois and Clark escaped from, but to a not-so-bygone era of a treasured hero. Dan Jurgens recognizes that the joy of this book is in watching the post-Flashpoint world through the eyes of the old guard, and their wry and knowing observations will only endear them to long-time readers. The book only falters when the story moves forward with a new threat, forcing itself to abandon the comfort of nostalgia, but the mixture of old and new manages to keep us on our toes while remaining firmly wrapped in a comfortable blanket. Lee Weeks was a wonderful choice for the principal artist, working with inker Scott Hanna and colorist Brad Anderson to bathe old-school Superman in a golden glow, as well as create a sexy new black-suited design.
Spider-Gwen #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): It’s Spider-Gwen’s second #1 for the year, and despite the end of the universe in between, Jason Latour neatly segues us back into a familiar pattern. Perhaps a little too familiar, with Gwen’s Lizard-related investigation taking us back over older territory and wounds already revealed. The concept of Spider-Gwen was a stroke of genius during Spider-Verse, but here it’s already on the repeat cycle with the concept barely out of trainers. Despite this, Robbie Rodriguez’s art is nothing short of magical, his punk-rock cartoons enhanced by color artist Rico Renzi’s pastel cartoon shades, who on occasion pulls the coloring back to a two-toned retro look reminiscent of Daniel Clowes. The shock revelation of another gender-swapped hero will come as not surprise to readers of the Battleworld tie-ins, but at least it promises to launch this second volume of Spider-Gwen in a new direction.
Batman #45 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Every once and awhile even a title as consistent as Batman has an off-month. Front loaded with a daring escape by Gordon from the clutches of Bloom’s devil boy henchmen, Scott Snyder quickly downshifts to follow Bruce as he struggles with reminders from "Endgame," as well as furthering Gordon’s struggle with the internal system in which he finds himself. It isn’t quite as compelling as the actual search for Bloom, but character work is always welcome, even when it isn’t as fun to read as it should be. Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and FCO Plascencia still make Batman #45 look as gorgeous as always even though the script is exposition heavy, continuing Batman’s streak of being one of the most impressive visual titles in DC’s arsenal. While it may not be another blockbuster, Batman #45 is still worth more than a passing glance.
Switch #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Stjepan Sejic relaunches Top Cow's Witchblade saga with a new host to the mystical artifact: Mary, an insecure teen. Scorned by the cool kids, Mary and her best friend Rudy share witty dialogue that is fun to read. But things really kick off when Sejic pits the heir of the Darkness against the hordes of the Angelus, with the first fight scene captures the frenetic energy and excitement of a hard-hitting action movie. Sejic skillfully draws bodies lunging and ducking rapidly as an angelic warrior throws punches. However, this double-sized debut issue's pacing will frustrate the impatient reader. Supporting characters explain mythology at length, and Mary's verbose internal monologue takes the reader out of the second fight scene. Switch is a creative combination of high fantasy and young adult fiction, but it's densely packed worldbuilding and exposition keep it from being fully enjoyed.
The Twilight Children #1 (Published by Vertigo; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): What would have been a sleepy introduction by Gilbert Hernandez is electrified thanks to some out-of-this-world cartooning by Darwyn Cooke in the first issue of The Twilight Children. Hernandez focuses mainly on establishing a certain atmosphere for this small coastal town - it reminds me of the BBC's Broadchurch, where the real hook isn't the chilling happenings going on in town, but the secrets that everyone is hiding underneath. From a surprisingly touching love affair to the sad story of a drunk's despair, Hernandez paints an effective picture with his characters - it's just that the plot doesn't go nearly as far as it needs to in order to hook readers. Thankfully, Hernandez also has Cooke, who lends so much emotion to his characters with his expert artwork. Cooke can go from mysterious to sexy to funny to sad from panel to panel, and it's his work that will ultimately give The Twilight Children a chance. Hopefully Hernandez's story will pick up in time to justify having this master at work.
Captain America: Sam Wilson #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10: Sam Wilson is the Captain America we deserve in Captain America: Sam Wilson #1. Setting aside the high flying spy drama of Sam’s first title, writer Nick Spencer smartly makes it a family affair, surrounding Sam with unexpected allies and family to make his tenure as Cap feel more personal than ever. Sam isn’t content with just being a symbol, he wants to be a force for change and Spencer more than once illustrates that by showing Sam’s commitment to his ideology and his concern for the common people in the form of a hotline he has set up, a la the Mighty Avengers. Artist Daniel Acuna makes this debut a gorgeous one with expressive character designs and his trademark Jack Kirby-esque fight choreography, which puts this debut over from a good comic to a great comic. While Sam’s first title was fun and fast-paced, Sam Wilson: Captain America #1 finally feels like the book that he deserves.
Justice League of America #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Religion is a sickness in this month’s Justice League of America. Writer/artist Bryan Hitch is starting to tighten the noose around the world as Rao and his prophets spread their “good word” all across the world while Batman and Cyborg discover the nefarious truth behind his so-called conversions. Hitch does a fantastic job of making each plotline feel connected, even though most of the League is scattered, some even lost in time. While Hitch’s scripting is getting tighter, so is his cinematic art style, which is rendered this month in less widescreen panels and instead replaced by traditional panel grids. Still Justice League of America #4 looks tremendous and reads even more so as the plot thickens and quickens heading into the title’s endgame.
Guardians of the Galaxy #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Just like a new iPhone, the only thing that’s changed is everything - or is it just a rose gold facade? With a new line-up for the cosmic Avengers, there’s an inescapable feeling that these changes are all superficial. The pieces have been haphazardly moved around but the story remains essentially the same. Ben Grimm is an easily likable addition to the team, although he too simply mirrors Brian Michael Bendis’ previous addition of Tony Stark during the last reboot. Valerio Schiti crafts some beautiful cosmic vistas, but is hamstrung by the repetition of panels that is a staple motif of Bendis‘ work. Kitty Pride is a wonderful new and dynamic Star-Lord, but with the immediate reintroduction of Peter Quill as the bored Spartax ruler, it seems like it is only a matter of time before those superficial changes fall back in line with a more familiar Guardians lineup.
Batman and Robin Eternal #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): The curse of the weekly struck swiftly. After an exciting opening issue, Tim Seeley mires Batman & Robin: Eternal in dialogue. The plot moves at a snail’s pace and the lack of action is alarming. There’s one fight scene that is given little context, and Seeley does nothing to build on the mystery introduced in issue one. It’s nice to see Paul Pelletier’s art, however - I think the last time was a poorly received Aquaman arc - and it’s a good fit for Gotham city. His character renderings are strong, but Pelletier doesn’t really try to push the envelope in terms of layout and design. This is just solid cartooning that gets the readers from cover to cover. Weekly comics are hard, and it looks like Seeley might have just written a bum chapter. That said, you wouldn’t be missing anything by skipping this one.
New Avengers #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): I love Al Ewing as a writer, but even an up-and-comer such as himself can't have a perfect record. New Avengers #1 has a lot of intelligence that's marred by some poor execution and some truly clashing artwork. Ewing's pacing feels glacial compared to his work in Mighty Avengers, as he has to front-load this largely new team with tons and tons of exposition, and while there's a cute bit featuring Hawkeye as a not-so-secret mole for S.H.I.E.L.D., Ewing's usually striking ideas fall flat here. Much of this lies at the hands of Gerardo Sandoval, who is just not the right fit for this writer or these characters. His way-too-sharp linework makes teenagers like Wiccan and Hulkling look like super-huge muscle men, and his designs for the book's crystal-headed villains looks unfinished rather than menacing. While Ewing has the voice down for characters like Squirrel Girl or POD, these moments can't save what is a big misfire for the Avengers lineup.